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Pain is the sensory and emotional experience of discomfort which is usually associated with actual or threatened tissue damage or irritation (American Medical Association, 2003). The experience of pain accounts for 80 per cent of physician visits (Lebovits, 2004) and, if long-lasting and severe, can affect general functioning, ability to work, relationships and emotional well-being. Early theories regarded pain as merely a bodily sensation. Descartes viewed pain as a direct response to external painful stimulation, with a direct pathway between the point where pain originates and the brain area responsible for detection of pain. Specificity theory proposed that there are specific sensory receptors each responsible for transmitting warmth, touch or pain.

These early theories assumed that pain sensation was an automatic response that was the ...

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